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Great North Run –  5 October 2008 – An Unforgettable Experience 

I entered the Great North Run when I had high hopes for my running achievements during 2008! I was on course for another Fidelity Award in the road race league and was hoping to run in the London Marathon etc etc … all this because I was 50 in February so wanted to make it a great year for me!

Anyway, with one thing and another I have had a horrible year and will be glad to get into 2009. After a couple of years with an over active thyroid the doctor gave up trying to sort it and zapped it with radioactive treatment in May. Great, I thought I will be fine now … very naïve of me I now realise. So, after a few months of having an under active thyroid I am at last starting to feel better, not 100%, but better. I can now run again without feeling too bad afterwards. So, hopefully I will be able to enter a few races during the last few months of 2008.

I had planned to run the Great North for a local MS charity in Sturminster Marshall but still not feeling great at the beginning of September I told them I was not able to do this. I was very disappointed but did not want to let them down. So, when I found I was able to run in the race it was too late to start raising money. I was just pleased that I was able to run and looked forward to the event.

Mark and I drove to Newcastle on the Saturday before the race and it is a long drive! A couple of my friends from Lytchett Manor were also running and we planned to meet at the start. A couple also drove and a couple flew up to Newcastle. Our journey was really good leaving just before 8am and we arrived around at around 4pm after being held up on the A1 due to an accident. The countryside is lovely all around the area and the ‘Angel of the North’ looms up above the motorway so you know you are nearly there. On the Saturday there are junior runs and events taking place in South Shields so we did see the Red Arrows as we drove towards Newcastle. I always think they are amazing and never tire of seeing them.      

We stayed 20miles north of Newcastle, north of Morpeth, in a lovely B&B. The village had three great pubs and we had a meal on the Saturday night. The locals were all really friendly and got chatting to us about the race. There were other people running too and I was wished good luck for the next day! My husband enjoyed a few pints not having to worry about the effects for the next day, unlike me! Lasagne and no alcohol for me! Anyway, the pub was great and the local people very lovely.         

So, the next morning arrived and after an early breakfast we set off for the start! We had been warned about not trying to get the Metro or buses so we decided to park and walk. As we arrived really early that was not a problem but the roads are closed for 8ish. We walked to the start across a park with Newcastle in front of us with the impressive football stadium in view. Mark left me at the start and said he would be at the finish; he was going to get the Metro. The start was very exciting, reminiscent of London but not quite the same!! The start is managed in a similar way to London in so much that you have a coloured pen to join and have to stay there. The numbers are brightly coloured and it is well monitored but you are allowed to go back to a different pen but not forwards. All of us girls were in different colours so we all agreed to meet in the furthest one back, pink! Linda was in the pink pen …. this did not work out well! It was so busy, noisy and mobile phones did not work! So, I waited on my own and thought I was destined to run alone. I settled down to wait for the start. It was a lovely sunny, day feeling quite warm, perfect conditions. It is very sad to listen to some of the stories of why people are running and makes you realise just how lucky you are. The whole crowd sang ‘Abide with me’ which was very sad and lots of people were crying, including me!! However, it is amazing to see the number of people running for charity. I would say that I did not see anyone else wearing a club vest (well not where I started from); it was mostly charity runners and if you are not, you do feel a bit out of it! There was a warm-up session on big screens so everyone could join in which was great fun and lightened the atmosphere after the sad stories and singing. About 5 minutes before the start I found my friend from Lytchett which was great and we hugged in each in relief at seeing a familiar face.

So, at last the race started, not that we knew at the back but it did take over 30 minutes for us to get across the start. The Red Arrows flew across us who were very impressive and off we went. The half marathon itself was fine, not too hilly, some up and downs on the slip roads but mostly flat. The crowd was great, lots of bands and people handing out sweets, ice pops and oranges. There were also annoying little brats that thought it was great fund to throw bottles of water at you!! The plastic bottle again reminded me of London and the ‘sticky’ road due to discarded Lucozade pouches. Caroline and I really enjoyed ourselves but it was far too crowded to hope for anything other than just getting round. There are people walking from mile one and you do spend the whole race weaving in and out of ‘walkers’.

The finish is amazing, well it was for us! You turn left on to the seafront (if you don’t you end up in the North Sea) and there are crowds along the last mile. The Red Arrows happened to be doing their display at the time we finished so I can honestly say it was the best finish to a race ever! We crossed the line in about 2.25 but in reality in had taken nearly three hours taking into account the wait at the start. The finish is total chaos though, well we found that! We had to get the microchip off and handed in, whilst being told to keep moving. We could not find anyone and although there were meeting places arranged by letters of the alphabet it was horrendously crowded. Mark arrived looking very flustered as it had taken him nearly three hours to get to the finish from the start on the Metro. Apparently the trains were crammed full, quite dangerous so not a great experience!! He missed the whole race.

It then took us nearly another two and a half hours to get back to the start. Although there were lot of buses the queues were huge and standing around for hours was not really what you wanted. We arrived back in Newcastle at around 4.30 so it was a long day just to run 13.1 miles.

So, I guess the question I ask myself is, would I do it again? Probably yes, but would get the train and stay in the centre of Newcastle. I would be more prepared if I knew that it would take the whole day and of course Mark would not try and get to the finish! He would at least then see the start. We would probably take a couple more days off work and see more of the area because as I say it is a lovely place, just much colder than the South!             

We stayed another night in our lovely B&B, tried another pub, roast dinner and some red wine for me! Again lovely pub and great people so definitely worth another visit … maybe next year!!

Julie Gosling


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